Some years ago, when it came out, I read Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. It struck me as a profound commentary on the weakening of college education and about changes in college students that I did not like and which had occurred since I was one myself.
It seems to be getting worse now, according to this essay in Psychology Today.
Dan Jones, past president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, seems to agree with this assessment. In an interview for the Chronicle of Higher Education article, he said: “[Students] haven’t developed skills in how to soothe themselves, because their parents have solved all their problems and removed the obstacles. They don’t seem to have as much grit as previous generations.”
In my next essay in this series I’ll examine the research evidence suggesting that so-called “helicopter parenting” really is at the core of the problem. But I don’t blame parents, or certainly not just parents. Parents are in some ways victims of larger forces in the society—victims of the continuous exhortations from “experts” about the dangers of letting kids be, victims of the increased power of the school system and the schooling mentality that says kids develop best when carefully guided and supervised by adults, and victims of increased legal and social sanctions for allowing kids into public spaces without adult accompaniment. We have become, unfortunately, a “helicopter society.”
I think this is exceedingly dangerous and is behind the war on college age men. Some this can be seen in the hysteria of “Rape Culture” and various hoaxes perpetrated by magazines and by the Obama Administration’s Department of Education and its “Dear Colleague” letters.
In order to assist recipients, which include school districts, colleges, and universities (hereinafter “schools” or “recipients”) in meeting these obligations, this letter1 explains that the requirements of Title IX pertaining to sexual harassment also cover sexual violence, and lays out the specific Title IX requirements applicable to sexual violence.2 Sexual violence, as that term is used in this letter, refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability. A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape,
Those acts include many that an earlier generation would consider harmless and part of the normal male-female relationship.
From one reader review of Bloom’s book written years after its publication:
Bloom begins with the problem of liberal education at the end of the 20th century – in a world where students are taught from childhood that “values” are relative and that tolerance is the first virtue, too many students arrive at college without knowing what it means to really believe in anything. They think they are open-minded but their minds are closed to the one thing that really matters: the possibility of absolute truth, of absolute right and wrong. In explaining where we are and how we got here, Bloom presents a devastating critique of modern American education and its students, an intellectual history of the United States and its unique foundation in Enlightenment philosophy, and an assesment of the project of liberal education.
We are well past that stage of the deterioration of American culture.
a summary of themes that emerged in the series of meetings, which included the following bullets:
• Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.
• There is a sense of helplessness among the faculty. Many faculty members expressed their frustration with the current situation. There were few ideas about what we could do as an institution to address the issue.
• Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.
• Faculty, particularly young faculty members, feel pressured to accede to student wishes lest they get low teacher ratings from their students. Students email about trivial things and expect prompt replies.
There are others, even less understandable when the students should be acting as adults.
From my post on The Rape Culture:
In the early 1980s, a fear of abuse of children in day care centers began. The entire matter began in Kern County, California.
In 1982, Alvin and Debbie McCuan’s two daughters, coached by their step-grandmother Mary Ann Barbour, who had custody of them, alleged they had been abused by their parents, and accused them of being part of a sex ring that included Scott and Brenda Kniffen. The Kniffens’ two sons also claimed to have been abused. No physical evidence was ever found. The McCuans and Kniffens were convicted in 1984 and given a combined sentence of over 1000 years in prison.
This persisted for years and caused terrible abuse of school teachers and parents. The next hysteria arrived in the 1990s.
The next moral panic, in my opinion, was the the “Recovered Memories” panic of the 1990s. I became aware of this in 1994 while attending Dartmouth Medical School in a health policy program. I read a book by a local man whose daughter, while undergoing testament for bulimia, became convinced that she had been molested by her father as a child.
While not a therapeutic technique in and of itself, RMT (Recovered Memory Therapy) generally is applied to such methods as hypnosis, age regression, drug-assisted interviewing (using substances such as sodium amytal), and guided visualization. While practiced by some individual therapists, these techniques were never recognized by the psychiatric or psychological community, and are generally not practiced in mainstream treatment modalities.
We seem to be in a Rape Culture Panic at present but it is even worse when we see the absolute paralysis of adolescents.
A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services to join other faculty and administrators, at the university I’m associated with, for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.
This is a serious problem for society, even if there were not an impending crisis with hostile Muslim cultures. The paralysis has been addressed by blogger Richard Fernandez.
On the American side of the Atlantic, Rukmini Callimachi has a long piece in the New York Times describing how a “lonely” American girl was gradually converted to Islam by an ISIS interlocutor on the Internet. “Alex, a 23-year-old Sunday school teacher and babysitter, was trembling with excitement the day she told her Twitter followers that she had converted to Islam.”
The only Muslims she knew were those she had met online, and he encouraged her to keep it that way, arguing that Muslims are persecuted in the United States. She could be labeled a terrorist, he warned, and for now it was best for her to keep her conversion secret, even from her family.
So on his guidance, Alex began leading a double life. She kept teaching at her church, but her truck’s radio was no longer tuned to the Christian hits on K-LOVE. Instead, she hummed along with the ISIS anthems blasting out of her turquoise iPhone, and began daydreaming about what life with the militants might be like.
“I felt like I was betraying God and Christianity,” said Alex, who spoke on the condition that she be identified only by a pseudonym she uses online. “But I also felt excited because I had made a lot of new friends.”
The NYT article calls the process enticing the lonely. The other phrase for it is filling the emptied. ”She felt as if she finally had something to do,” Callimachi wrote.
This is world shattering stuff as this is the next generation that we expect to carry on and continue our civilization. Well they ?
“I have done a considerable amount of reading and research in recent months on the topic of resilience in college students. Our students are no different from what is being reported across the country on the state of late adolescence/early adulthood. There has been an increase in diagnosable mental health problems, but there has also been a decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life. Whether we want it or not, these students are bringing their struggles to their teachers and others on campus who deal with students on a day-to-day basis. The lack of resilience is interfering with the academic mission of the University and is thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.”
I am not optimistic.